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The Importance of Fecal Exams for Dogs and Cats

Annual cat and dog fecal exams, done at your vet's office, are the best way to ensure that your pet and your family are safe from intestinal parasites. Yearly fecal exams give your vet an opportunity to check for intestinal parasites that could otherwise be missed. Our Englewood vets explain more.

What is a fecal exam?

Fecals are microscopic examinations of your pet's feces, performed at your veterinarian's office. Yearly routine fecal exams help your vet to identify and treat any infections that could be compromising your pet's health.

What do fecal exams detect?

When doing fecal exams, your vet will look for signs of intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms. These parasites not only make pets uncomfortable and irritable, but they could lead to more serious conditions. It's also important to note that a number of intestinal parasites can be transmitted to people!

Intestinal parasites are hidden from view because they live inside your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Fecals are the best way for your vet to detect intestinal parasites that may be hiding in your pet.

Additionally, fecal exams can also identify bacterial infections, such as giardia or coccidia, which can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues in pets.

How do I prepare for my pet's fecal exam?

Collect a fresh stool sample and bring it to your veterinarian's office that same day. To ensure the most accurate results, bring the sample to your veterinary office within 4 to 6 hours of collection.

If the stool sample dries out or dehydrates, many of the potential parasites will be killed, which in turn could mask their presence.

How often does my pet need a fecal exam?

Veterinarians recommend that cats and dogs undergo fecal examinations at least once a year. Puppies and animals with gastrointestinal issues may require more frequent fecal examinations. Speak with your veterinarian to determine how frequently you should bring in your pet's stool sample for a fecal.

How are fecal exams performed?

Fecal samples are centrifuged with a special fluid before being examined under a microscope on a coverslip. A wet mount method can also be used to examine samples, which may allow for better detection of motile organisms. Each parasite has a distinct appearance that an experienced technician or veterinarian can detect.

This fecal examination usually takes 30 to 40 minutes and is normally done at the hospital.

In certain cases, veterinarians may choose to send the sample to a third-party laboratory. Other tests, such as PCR, fluorescent antibody, and antigen tests, may be required to detect organisms that are invisible to a light microscope, such as viruses. If this is the case, test results may take anywhere from one to seven days to arrive.

What happens if I don't do fecal exams for my pet?

By not getting a fecal exam for your pet, they can contract serious diseases, such as heartworm disease or giardia, which can be harmful to their health and require expensive treatment.

And while having an annual fecal exam is extremely important for pet health, it's also important for human health.

Some of the intestinal parasites found in dogs on a fecal test are zoonotic. This means that animals can pass them on to humans. Contact with contaminated feces is usually the main mode of transmission. These can include:

  • Picking up feces
  • Gardening or playing in the yard
  • Your dog licks your hand and then you touch your mouth or eat
  • Your dog licks your face

Young children are more vulnerable to parasites from dogs because they love to get dirty and pick up anything on the ground (including poop) in an instant, and they despise washing their hands. Furthermore, they may find it amusing when the dog licks them on the face. If you have children, it is especially important to keep an eye on your dog for intestinal parasites.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is having an emergency, gastrointestinal or otherwise, contact our VRCC vets right away.

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VRCC Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital in Englewood is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified specialists and emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to Denver Metro area pets.

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